An Artist’s Career: What Development Looks Like in the Art World


Art is a consuming fascination for many people, but turning it into a career feels like an impossible task. Parents, teachers and careers advisors can feel it’s not a ‘practical’ path to go down, but today we’re taking a look at how an artist can make a career, and all of the different things that might mean.

In the Art World

It is a sad truth that there isn’t room in the world of modern art for everyone who might want to make a space there, in much the same way that the world of acting is often found to be oversubscribed by drama school graduates and not every college band makes the top forty.

If you do manage to make enough of a splash with your initial pieces (perhaps, even starting with the graduation show at your art college) that you become a valued creator to the collectors who drive the value of modern artists, you need to start charting a future for yourself to ensure your longevity in the field. Zurab Tsereteli, for example, went from an artist, to the representative of Russia’s entire art world, heading academic institutions and arranging exhibitions, even as he continued to produce new work.

Small Scale Success

The advent of social networking and accessible small scale online store fronts through platforms like Etsy allow artists to build a career on a smaller scale, finding an audience and selling to it directly.

This does allow you to make money through your art, but it’s hard to build it into a career. Even when your art has an easy, popular hook (like mashing up images from different fandoms) your market tends to be quite limited, and requires a large amount of extracurricular work for you to build.

Commercial Art

The remaining option for you to develop your artistic skills so they can be used commercially. This offers the chance for higher earnings than many artists, and more stability. It does of course mean sacrificing some independence  – whether you’re working for an advertising agency or a film company, you’re producing art according to their demands, rather than following your own muse.

The trade off is that you are able to plan for promotion and retirement, and expect a regular wage that makes issues like housing taxation and healthcare all easier to handle, and takes a lot of the stress out of life.

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